What’s coming up in 2016 for the shooting and countryside community?
Representatives from six major shooting and countryside organisations tell us what they think is on the horizon this year
Lindsay Waddell, chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation
If the past is any sort of indicator of the future, 2016 will be a busy year for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO). The list of major issues that might alter how we go about our jobs grows ever longer by the day. There’s only one thing to do — roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.
The recent publication of the Law Commission report, Wildlife Law, is a case in point, as it could have ramifications for almost all aspects of keepering. The good news is that it incorporates many of the NGO’s recommendations. The bad news is that some other parts of the report are a real worry for keepers.
The NGO is alert to the dangers and ready for the fight. One scenario is that shooting’s enemies might try to hijack the process. Equally, there is every chance that the Law Commissioners’ reforms will never get to Parliament. We will see.
Then there is the issue of traps. Effective, practical, small mammal traps are vital to gamekeepers. But should the UK Government put into motion the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards, we might well have to replace many of our traps by July. It is unlikely that sufficient, approved replacements will be available in time. The NGO has been telling DEFRA this for years. A big battle lies ahead for us.
Wales introduced an excellent best practice code for fox snaring in 2015 and now snares are likely to come under the spotlight in England. These are vital tools for fox management, and we will be lobbying the minister hard for the adoption of a sensible, workable code, similar to the Welsh one.
Ross Murray, CLA president
Issues relating to land management and the environment will be high on the agenda in 2016.
The switch to the Government’s new Countryside Stewardship scheme last year has not been a smooth process. We aspire for the scheme to be a success for 2016 and beyond. We have set out to DEFRA the revisions required, particularly to streamline the application and reporting processes. The CLA will be working throughout the year for wider recognition among politicians and the media of all that land managers do for the environment.
We have been fighting a long battle to improve provision of broadband in rural areas, and 2015 was a turning point. Near the end of the year, the Government committed to the Universal Service Obligation — a legal right, for everyone — of at least 10Mbps. This was a major success for CLA lobbying, but the job is not done until every home and office has a fast, reliable and affordable service. We will be working with Government throughout 2016 to ensure that there is a clear and feasible plan in place for this to come to fruition.
We can expect 2016 to be dominated by debate around the UK’s position within the European Union, firstly in the context of the Prime Minister’s negotiations and then ahead of the referendum. The CLA will be working on behalf of our members to ensure that the implications on the rural economy of both outcomes are properly explored and understood. Rural businesses must have the clarity and confidence needed to make business decisions, to invest and grow.
In 2016, we will be pressing the Government to answer the key questions on how it will support rural businesses during the build-up to the referendum, and after its outcome — whatever that may be.
Christopher Graffius, BASC director of communications
BASC is currently working with FACE (The European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation) to ensure that shooting is not damaged by the European Commission’s drive to amend the EU Firearms Directive. Decisions on this will be taken early in the year.
There will be further work to do to protect shooting from other proposals to amend the habitats and birds directives. We will continue to take a firm stand on lead ammunition and insist that in the absence of sound evidence, there should be no change.
Elections are due in May for the parliament and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as in England for police and crime commissioners. A BASC election website will allow everyone with an interest in shooting to lobby the candidates.
Work on the Law Commission’s report on wildlife management and their new inquiry into firearms law will continue. BASC will attend more than 60 game fairs and shows and we will also be involved with British Game Week, the BASC gamekeepers’ classes at Crufts and the main political parties’ conferences. 2016 will be a busy and important year for shooting and we depend on your support to help us ensure that shooting ends the year better and stronger.
Andrew Gilruth, director of communications for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust
Next year, the GWCT will continue to produce practical conservation advice for our wider working countryside. That scientific evidence gathered in our fields, rivers, and moorlands will also be embraced by policy makers and conservationists alike.
We are anticipating that statutory bodies will have to achieve higher targets with smaller budgets in 2016 and that gives those that live and work across our countryside a bigger say, because they know and understand how it works. However, we are also increasingly noticing more “policy-based evidence making”. This term has been used in relation to the climate change debate, and its approach is spreading. From the impacts of releasing pheasants, the use of lead ammunition, through to resolving the wildlife conflict between raptors, the GWCT will actively challenge, inform and broaden these debates at every opportunity in 2016.
Hamish McInnes, chief executive of British Shooting, said: “We can’t discuss 2016 without starting with the biggest competition in the world, the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Since Peter Wilson’s gold in 2012, a huge amount of work has gone into developing the coaching and talent structure that feeds British Shooting, and we and Disability Shooting Great Britain have reaped the rewards already by securing six quota places for the Rio Olympics and ten quotas for the Paralympics. None of these quota places would have been possible with the funding from UK Sport, the National Lottery and Sport England.
While 2016 is an important year for us as an organisation, it is not the be all and end all. We are already planning for Tokyo 2020 and beyond. There is a huge amount of talent coming through the GB Academy Programme and the Talent Pathway, highlighting the growing strength within our sport. This is no fluke; praise has to go to the attention to detail in our planning and preparation. Having said this, we must not rest on our laurels; more is still to be done if we are to become the world’s leading shooting nation.
It’s clear from the evolution and growth of initiatives such as Cadets On Target, Troops To Target, Talent Network and Disability Talent Hubs that a lot of good work is being done from a talent pathway and development perspective. Next year we will also be taking part in the Sports Show 2016, which will be a key event in which we look to increase our participation. Visit British Shooting for more information about our grassroots initiatives.
Next year also looks to be an exciting one from a commercial perspective. With Eley already a really important partner to us, we have recently struck a partnership with Grange Hotels. This is just the start of big things to come as we look for organisations to share our Olympic journey with us.
Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance
It is difficult to see how the current trend for increasing extreme comment and campaigning around shooting will change in 2016, but the good news is that the overwhelming moderate majority will continue to shoot, eat game and welcome the conservation benefits of shooting.
Unfortunately many in the current Labour Party leadership are fixated by the animal rights movement so expect to see them dancing to its latest tune. The image of grouse shooting ticks the right boxes for confirmed class warriors, so expect a continuation of campaigns against it.
Calling for a ban on lead ammunition is a useful substitute for attacking all shooting so, again, we can look forward to further obsessive pursuit of this goal. There is real concern both without, and within, Labour that party policy will become fixed against shooting. This would obviously be bad news for shooting, but also for the Labour Party as it seeks to regain ground over the next general elections. Labour only wins general elections when it wins some rural constituencies. Alienating a large section of the rural constituency cannot help with that.
“On a more positive note, 2016 could be the year that the unhealthy intrusion of animal rights groups into the criminal justice system is reversed. The RSPCA has already retreated from prosecuting hunts, the League Against Cruel Sports is reeling after a hugely expensive private prosecution collapsed and took with it the reputation of its expert witness. The RSPB must be looking on and thinking very carefully about its investigation operations. Criminal activity within the shooting community is unjustifiable and unacceptable, but the behaviour of a few individuals cannot justify blanket surveillance and indiscriminate prosecution.
In 2016, I hope shooting can reach consensus with the sensible majority who are interested in conservation and the countryside, but fear that shrill voices on social media and the increasing extremism of politics means that will be far harder than it should.